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November 24th, 2016:

Trends in E-Cigarette Awareness and Perceived Harmfulness in the U.S.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are gaining in popularity as an alternative to regular cigarettes, as they are viewed as potentially less harmful. However, it remains unclear how awareness about e-cigarettes is permeating through the general U.S. population. This study seeks to extend previous research and examine trends in e-cigarette awareness and perceived harmfulness, and their association with smoking-cessation efforts.

Data from three cycles (2012, 2013, and 2014) of the Health Information National Trends Survey were combined into a single data set. Controlling for survey year, multivariate logit models were used to determine the association between demographic characteristics and e-cigarette awareness, perceived harmfulness, quit attempts, and quit intentions. Data were analyzed in 2015.

Awareness of e-cigarettes increased from 77.1% in 2012 to 94.3% in 2014. Controlling for demographic characteristics, e-cigarette awareness significantly increased in both 2013 and 2014, relative to 2012. Perception that e-cigarettes were less harmful than regular cigarettes declined from 50.7% in 2012 to 43.1% in 2014. Among smokers, no relationship was observed between e-cigarette awareness and past-year quit attempts or quit intentions, but those that viewed e-cigarettes as less harmful were less likely to have a past-year quit attempt.

These analyses reveal a continued increase in overall public awareness of e-cigarettes and shifting harm perceptions relative to regular cigarettes. New regulatory oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may have major effects on both dimensions, which are worth continued monitoring.

e-cigarettes carry several health risks: expert

There are several health risks associated with e-cigarettes and portraying them as safe is ‘extremely irresponsible and potentially dangerous,’ a Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) official has warned.

“Studies into the health risks posed by using electronic cigarettes, which are illegal in Qatar, are now beginning to be published,” said Dr Ziyad Mahfoud, associate professor, Healthcare Policy and Research at WCM-Q at the latest instalment of WCM-Q’s ‘Ask the Expert Series.’

“E-cigarettes are quite new and until recently there had not been much research into them, but now there have been few good quality studies and we are gaining some understanding of the health risks they carry,” he pointed out.

“Firstly, the production of the devices and the liquid that is vaporised and inhaled is poorly regulated. A user cannot be sure of what chemicals they are actually inhaling, and it is never recommended to introduce unknown, potentially harmful substances into the body.

“Secondly, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive, and research indicates that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking normal cigarettes, which we know can have catastrophic negative effects on health, including increased risk of respiratory disease, heart disease and many forms of cancer.

Portraying e-cigarettes as safe is therefore extremely irresponsible and potentially dangerous.”

Dr Mahfoud said that a few studies have shown that smoking e-cigarettes can reduce the normal consumption of regular cigarettes among smokers, but on the other hand marketing them as a safe alternative has led to some ex-smokers picking up the habit again.

“Until there are more regulations on the manufacturing of e-cigarettes and more studies about its health hazards, nicotine gum, nicotine patches, medications and cognitive behavioural therapy provide safer ways to reduce nicotine dependency and give up smoking.”

“A common misperception of shisha is that because the tobacco is fruit-flavoured, it is somehow healthier than normal tobacco. This is wrong: it is just normal tobacco that is mixed with molasses and other additives. It is harmful to health. Smoking shisha has been linked to respiratory, cardiovascular and periodontal diseases and many forms of cancer. It is addictive and also harmful to pregnant women and their foetuses.

“It is also completely untrue that the water in the shisha pipe filters out toxins. Scientific studies have proven that shisha smoke contains similar levels of tar and other hazardous chemicals as cigarette smoke does, and in some cases much higher levels.”